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August 7, 2018
Midterm Countdown: Songwriter Embraces Gun Rights, Attacks Castro In Bid For Congress
chirino

By AMI Newswire Staff

She wrote the Spanish-language version of Marc Anthony’s hit “I need to know” and now she is running for Congress in Florida’s costliest primary.

Angie Chirino, the daughter of Cuban-music sensation Willy Chirino, a pop songwriter, and teacher for disadvantaged children, is perhaps one of the most unusal candidates running as a Republican today.

Chirino is one of three candidates vying in the Aug. 20 GOP primary to replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who was first elected to Congress in 1989. Chirino won a Latin Grammy in 2000 and has worked with Latin music stars Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estefan and Celia Cruz. She also translated the lyrics to Marc Anthony’s famous hit single “I Need to Know.”

Outside of music, Chirino has largely dedicated her life to charitable causes she and is a former volunteer guardian ad litem, an independent officer of the state court, who comforts children in need in Miami.

Chirino hopes that her name-recognition as a member of Miami’s first family of Latin Music will provide her with an edge in the Aug. 20 primary.

A Closer Look at the District

Florida’s 27th congressional district is a cityscape of 344 square-miles, including parts of Miami, Miami Beach, Key Biscayne and other urban neighborhoods of Miami-Dade County. At the heart of the district is Miami’s Little Havana, where some 55% of the district’s residents trace their origins to Cuba. Over all the district population is 72% Latino, 18% White, 8% black. (Many whites and blacks in the district also identify as Hispanic.) All three of the main candidates in the Republican primary are Cuban-American, and according to OpenSecrets.org, no congressional district in Florida has thus far attracted more money in this year’s election.

Although Rep Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, has represented the district since the Reagan years, the district has been trending toward the Democrats. Hillary Clinton won it by 20 percentage-points in 2016 and the New York Times hailed it as one of “the best Democratic pick-up opportunit[ies] in the country.”

Opponent(s)

Chirino has two main opponents. Maria Elvira Salazar, a former CNN Espanol and Telemundo journalist who is backed by FreedomWorks, a pro-free market PAC,  and Bruno A.  Barreiro, the who resigned his seat as a county commissioner to run for the open congressional seat.

Chirino is third behind Salazar and Barreiro, according to the latest poll, which was conducted in July. Campaign aides say Chirino is ahead in their internal polls, but declined to share those results.

Details of the campaign:

Polls aside, this race is seen as a wide open because outgoing Representative Ros-Lehtinen has not endorsed a candidate.

Barreiro was an early front-runner but enthusiasm for him faded when of his championing of in Marlin Park project became an issue. Miami taxpayers are on the hook for some $2 billion used to build a new stadium for one of Major League Baseball’s worst-performing teams. While the project yielded some construction jobs, it has not produced the economic boom that was promised. Barreiro, told that Miami Herald in March he would still vote for the stadium but, admitted to having some “short-term regrets.”

Chirino’s other rival, Salazar appears to have benefitted the most from Barreiro’s woes but her ties to another Cuban baseball fan – Fidel Castro – have made her vulnerable. Television attack ads paid for by Stephen Marks, a political consultant, have reminded voters of Salazar’s 1995 CNN interview with communist dictator Fidel Castro in which she referred to him as “commandante” among other other compliments and failed to question him about the imprisonment of poets, writers and scholars and other human-rights abuses in the communist country. Salazar has dismissed the ads as defamatory. She has not filed a lawsuit on defamation or any other grounds.

Salazar’s support for gun control is also a campaign issue. “I do not see the need for civilians to buy semiautomatic weapons,” she said in a March interview on Univision. While 37.2% of likely voters said the comment “more likely” to vote for Salazar, an almost equal number (36.6% ) said it would make them “less likely” to support Salazar. The National Rifle Association is yet to enter the race in a significant way; if the nation’s largest gun-rights group weighs in, Salazar will face an uphill battle in a Republican primary.

Chirino has made the strongest effort to align herself with President Trump, casting herself as an outside and promising to “Make America Great Again” in her stump speeches. Her campaign events feature live music performed by her and her sisters as well as human-rights victims from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Speaking in Spanish, some lift their shirts to show scars and broken ribs—unusual sights at campaign fundraisers.

Top Issues:

Chirino’s campaign has stressed school reform and called for measures to make teachers more accountable.

“As a former educator and recent college graduate I know one thing, education equals opportunity and children deserve every opportunity available to them,” she wrote on her campaign website. “This begins with a high-quality education.  But in order to achieve this, we need to make sweeping changes to school board practices and policies that contribute to a bloated, top heavy bureaucracy and ignore the most important element of education – students and teachers.”

Like many Cuban-Americans in Little Miami, she opposes former President Barack Obama’s efforts to offer diplomatic recognition for Cuba’s dictatorship without demanding any reforms from the island’s communist government.

“I will seek to eliminate the communist dictatorship in Cuba once and for all by convincing Washington that the Castro regime needs to be placed once again on the list of states that sponsor terrorism,” she said on her website.

She has campaigned as a staunch defender of the Second Amendment. She has given an AQ rating, the highest possible for a candidate, by the National Rifle Association, a 5-million member organization devoted to teaching gun safety and safeguarding the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. It endorses both Democrats and Republicans who favor gun rights.

Why the candidate thinks she will win:

Chirino supporters believe her name recognition, grassroots support and aggressive door-knocking operations have helped her rise from 5% to 15% in internal polling in the last three or four months. In this three-way race, the winning candidate will needs to win at least 40% of the primary vote. Chirino’s tough stance on Cuba should help not only with her base but also with other Latinos in the district who are concerned about the leftist-dictatorships in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

What the critics say:

Critics point out that Chirino has never held any public office and argue her support of President Trump’s policies may hurt her in this swing district. Barreiro and Salazar have, for the most part, ignored Chirino and focused on beating up on each other in advertisement campaigns.

What the polls say:

The most recent poll shows Salazar with a 26.5 percent support among 531 likely-GOP primary voters. Barreiro took 16.8 percent and Chirino 13.3 percent in a poll that indicated a large pool of undecided voters. The poll has a margin of error of 4% suggesting the race could be even closer.

Snippet from a stump speech:

“We have to make sure that the messages we send to our children build them, not break them, …Let’s make America great again for them. I will fight in Washington so that we have a country that they can grow happily in, peacefully in, safely in, and most importantly, freely in.”

Interesting fact that no one knows about the candidate:

Chirino’s work with children from troubled homes extends beyond her work as a guardian ad litem in a district where some 3,000 children languish in foster care. She also worked as a fundraiser for the Voices for Children Foundation, which advocates for foster children in the Miami area.

Photo: From the Angie Chirino For Congress twitter account @chirino4house.